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In discussing his rise at AT&T, Jaime Mata talks a lot about the knock of opportunity. He does it so often, in fact, that it’s probably become high time for him switch out both the door and its hinges. Mata’s willingness to accept new opportunities, ready or not, underscores his claim that at AT&T, motivated leaders can own a half dozen different careers.
Before accepting his current position, Mata shifted from litigation to marketing to labor and employment to corporate communications to consumer advertising—before circling right back to litigation. Some of the roles fit him perfectly, some less so. The through line for Mata, however, has been his enthusiasm to keep answering that door and taking on the leadership role being offered by whoever is knocking.
A legal career at one of the world’s most well-known communications conglomerates may have seemed far-fetched for the blue-collar-born Mata, who was the first of his brothers to attend college. “None of my older brothers made that decision, but for me, I felt like it was almost an assumed expectation of my parents,” Mata says. His father, an operator at an Anheuser-Busch plant, and his mother, an office aide at a local elementary school in Houston, took out loans to help their son attend college. “They always put family first and wanted me to have every opportunity possible.”
Attending law school wasn’t Mata’s directive straight out of undergrad. “I had actually been thinking that I wanted to join the FBI,” he explains. “But it was very hard to join the agency straight out of college, so I figured I could go to law school—I wasn’t terribly strategic about it,” he laughs.
That decision likely marked the last time Mata would make a passive judgment. Upon graduating law school, the young lawyer dug deep into litigation, from depositions to trying cases. After three years, Mata elected to go in-house at AT&T, still with an active litigation practice. “Five years in, opportunity knocked,” Mata says. “I was offered the chance to move to company headquarters in San Antonio to work on the marketing side of the business.” It was a significant opportunity, but there was just one problem: “I had no idea what a marketing lawyer did.”
“I wasn’t an advertising lawyer until the company told me I was—but you collaborate with your team and colleagues to learn that area of the law and grow your knowledge base.”
In taking the job, Mata began the first of many positions in which he didn’t possess significant expertise when he accepted the role. Still, he explains that part of AT&T’s leadership development means asking talent to grow and stretch in ways that demonstrate adaptability and a personal commitment to professional growth.
“Sometimes it’s been scary,” Mata admits. “I wasn’t an advertising lawyer until the company told me I was—but you collaborate with your team and colleagues to learn that area of the law and grow your knowledge base.” That capacity for growth is why Mata’s career trajectory hasn’t dipped at any point during the last dozen years.
“If it’s a role that puts me in the best position for leadership, that’s what I’ve wanted to do,” Mata says. “If it gives me a better opportunity to progress in my career, I was willing to take on those risks.” The gambles have varied in both size and scope over the years, and their variation speaks to Mata’s considerable aptitude when it comes to professional adaptation. He was part of a global marketing team tasked with unifying the company’s advertising vendor, a mammoth undertaking considering AT&T is one of the largest advertisers in the US.
“Collaborating closely with our own HR and business clients is the part of the job I enjoy most, because I’m directly partnering with the business to make sure the company continues to do the right thing by its employees.”
In his current role, Mata is tasked with helping internal clients stay compliant with wage and hour laws, upholding AT&T’s reputation for paying its employees fairly and in accordance with the law. “Collaborating closely with our own HR and business clients is the part of the job I enjoy most, because I’m directly partnering with the business to make sure the company continues to do the right thing by its employees,” Mata says.
Those who have partnered with Mata and AT&T feel the same way about him. “Jaime has a special skill of taking complex matters and distilling them to their strategic essence,” explains George Stohner, senior counsel at Faegre Baker Daniels. “In my experience, he approaches these challenging litigation matters with a team spirit and is great to partner with.”
Ultimately, the right thing is always foremost in the senior counsel’s mind, he offers, because of the role models he grew up around. The care and sacrifice which Mata’s parents showed for their family continues to resonate with him as he tackles new challenges. Having relocated his own family multiple times for better opportunities, Mata keeps his priorities front and center. “Every move that we’ve made and every job assignment I’ve accepted was solely with the mind of putting me in the best position to best support my family.”
Mata hopes that he’s been able to show his family the same care and compassion that he was offered by his parents growing up. One thing is for certain: he remains motivated to keep answering that door. “My parents were both first-generation Americans, and I just want to make them proud,” Mata says. “I’m proud to carry my father’s name, and I remind my boys regularly that it’s his last name that’s on their report cards and the back of their jerseys.”
Taking the Call
Jaime Mata has demonstrated a capacity to grow into new professional roles while offering his own time to help others. In addition to developing a wrestling program at his children’s school—where he coaches on a volunteer basis virtually every Saturday during the season—the senior legal counsel has been a part of each of the following organizations.
- The Wish Connection is a nonprofit organization Mata worked with that grants wishes to children with life-threatening or chronically debilitating conditions.
- He volunteered with the University of Texas at Arlington’s pre-law mentorship program, which mentors aspiring law students.
- Street Law is one of AT&T’s D&I pipeline initiatives where he volunteers help increase knowledge and interest in the legal profession among local high school students.
- With the AT&T Employee Giving Campaign, he served as the co-chair of the legal department’s campaign for two years.
- As a part of the AT&T Externship Program, he was co-chair of the program with SMU’s law school, mentoring externs who served in the AT&T legal department.
- Mata is a volunteer mentor with HACEMOS, AT&T’s Hispanic/Latino employee resource group.